By Claire Williams
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Chapter one of our ebook details how technology has grown and expanded in the last twenty years. The Internet has evolved to be smarter, more widespread and more accessible to people no matter where they are. Even in the most remote and underdeveloped regions throughout the world, the Internet is starting to provide more connection and knowledge to those previously unable to access it. Although this interconnection and accessibility provides many benefits, there are also growing concerns about privacy and the potential to have your identity and finances stolen. In a world where an online presence is inevitable, even unavoidable at this point, how do you protect yourself?
The past twenty years has seen an enormous amount of progress in technology. The Internet changed from something only reserved for the privileged and well-educated to something that now everyone uses on a daily basis. Computers and portable phones evolved overnight and are still rapidly changing with the yearly releases of popular devices, such as iPhones. Each year brings another surge of advancement that most people did not think possible twenty years ago. Now, it seems with each year, so much more is offered in the word of technology and with this also comes new concerns, questions and ideas about what it can be used for.
The Growth of Technology
Twenty years ago, there were only 10,000 websites and only 2 million computers connected to the Internet. Today, there are over 1 billion websites and over 2 billion computers. Until the mid-1990’s computers were only used for research, today computers are used for everything. Twelve years ago, there was one popular social media site, MySpace. Today, there are so many different ways to connect to social media with Facebook and Twitter for example, that MySpace barely gets used at all. Initially, technology was meant to be educational. The World Wide Web was to be a connection to information that everyone could share in. However, over the years, that purpose changed in more ways than one. The incredibly rapid growth of what was once a limited resource has now become a daily part of everyone’s lives in some way. Businesses use websites to advertise products, politicians campaign online through videos and websites, music and art is shared and created online. Science and research is shared online so that ideas can spread and influence others throughout the world to improve on and continue work. Twenty years ago, no one could have predicted that the Internet would become as essential to daily life as it is now. And as it continues to progress, people can only speculate as to what it will change and dictate in the future of technology. For now, however, just the progression of how people connect online and how devices have been created so quickly to keep up with the advancement of technology continues to astound individuals who have witnessed the evolution of the Internet since the 1990’s. Below is an info graphic that shows how the Internet and Internet-devices have grown to become such a normalized part of everyday life in the United States and around the world.
The Growth of Accessibility
Every year, people all around the world wait with anticipation over what the new phone and computer companies will bring to the table. Apple, a company recognized globally for its revolutionary products releases new phones, computers, smart watches and tablets twice a year. Andrew Meola wrote an article in ‘Business Insider’ describing how because of the products like the iPhone and related smart-phones have become a necessity and cheaper to buy, it has only increased the amount of people who have access to online world. Apple and companies similar to it are constantly trying to stay ahead in a business of technology where their customers want the “latest and greatest”. Because this technology, social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are also constantly competing for the attentions of their users. Digital technology it seems, is always on the lookout for the next best thing. In a world that used to be so private and separated, phones, social media have made people’s lives so much more accessible.
In her book “Internet Privacy”, Joy Crelin describes how connected and small the world seems now compared to when this technology was just beginning. It’s accessible to everyone with the means, and even in places where it is harder to buy smart phones and computers, public spaces like libraries or universities still offer individuals the ability to see and experience the lives of others out there that they themselves might never meet. She specifically says that it is almost impossible to have no kind of track record on the Internet, even if you yourself do not openly put your life out there. While this connects and brings different peoples of the world together and allows families or friends separated to remain close, there are and always have been concerns about online security and privacy in a society where the motto is to post first and think later, not always thinking of consequences. In 2016, the average age of a person who gets their first smart phone is around ten and a half years old. To the newer generation, technology is a consistent part of their childhood and upbringing. It is nearly impossible to not have a cyber footprint because of how young people are when they first start out on the Internet. An email address, web searches, gaming and social media use, all of this leaves a mark online.
The Issues of Progress
The expansion of the Internet has been one of arguably the most important advances in human history. In ‘Cyber Security and Privacy’, author Massimo Felici describes how revolutionary these advances have become. The Internet has become a place where everyone has a voice and information is readily available at the tips of your fingertips. He goes on to talk about the initial intention for the Internet, that it was designed to be used for research and communication throughout the world, but all that has come out of it is both surprising and troubling to some degree. In some of the most remote regions of the world, people are getting easier access to smart-devices and the digital world. However, while there are many benefits to more people joining the web every day, there are also growing concerns about how to keep one’s digital profile and presence safe and secure.
One of the largest problems online today is identity theft. According to Rafi Goldberg, there are nearly 15 million people per year who fall victim to identity theft. A lot of this is because many people do not know how to protect themselves online. With the ever-changing Internet, while personal protection increases, the amount of creativity to get around these protections also goes up. The numerous amounts of devices and many public places where Wi-Fi are available are why Scott Peppet believe the influx of identity theft and personal information leakage is so common. He argues that because there is so much accessibility it is making it so much easier for hackers to pick and choose who and what information they want to steal.
While the expansion of the Internet has proved both beneficial and exciting to many throughout the years, there are also many rising concerns in the United States and globally about what can potentially happen to one’s personal privacy online. While more and more people join the Internet every year, there are also those who prey upon those who are new and unsure of how to traverse and protect oneself online. This can include how to better protect your identity with passwords, how to erase cookies and scramble information so that hackers have a harder time decrypting your information, or just being a more informed Internet user. Throughout the rest of this ebook, each chapter will be dedicated to clarification of digital and Internet privacy and how to protect yourself online.
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